Kalaari-backed ScoopWhoop scaling down news operations, lays off employees
Photo Credit: Satyakam Banerjee/VCCircle

Online media startup ScoopWhoop is in the middle of restructuring its operations and laying off more than a dozen employees across teams, several former and current employees at the firm told VCCircle.

Kalaari Capital-backed ScoopWhoop Media Pvt Ltd, which runs the online media portal, is said to be closing down its news coverage operations, the people above said.

The company asked many senior members of the editorial team to leave. Eight people from the core news team and six from the design team have been laid off. Across the organisation, 10-15 employees have put in their papers, several people mentioned above said. One of them said that as many as 60 odd people have been asked to look for jobs; however, this could not be confirmed independently.

Sattvik Mishra, co-founder and chief executive officer of ScoopWhoop said the move was a performance review exercise.

“This rumour of 60-70 people (being laid off) is not true. We actually let go of about 10 people horizontally from a team of about 170. So, it is less than a 2% churn. So, I don’t know how this qualifies as a layoff. From (the) news (department), only three people were asked to go. (Overall), only 10-12 people were asked to leave. In fact, we are hiring more people. It is not like we are cutting down on costs,” Mishra explained.

Ten to twelve employees being laid off from a total of 170 translates to a 7% churn.

Mishra said the company has 40 writers who work on news content. He denied that ScoopWhoop is shuttering its news operations. “It is a six-month exercise that we do at ScoopWhoop,” he said when asked about the lay-offs.

Besides this, Mishra and his management team were instructed by ScoopWhoop’s investors to stop covering news related to politics and the government on the site, some of the people mentioned above told VCCircle.

“There was a specialist team of about 3-4 people who were looking at only politics and we felt we needed to merge that with the large editorial team and that is what has happened,” Mishra said.

However, the portal, which is well known for its viral articles, curated infotainment content, aggregated news stories, and fun videos, will continue to provide this content.

The Delhi-based company’s losses have been increasing year-on-year. According to data from VCCEdge, the research platform of News Corp VCCircle, for the financial year 2016-17, ScoopWhoop reported losses of Rs 11.2 crore compared to Rs 6.4 crore in the previous financial year. In 2016-17, the firm’s revenue (net sales) was Rs 14.8 crore, up from Rs 9.1 crore in the previous financial year.

Vani Kola, managing director at Kalaari Capital, did not respond to email queries from VCCircle seeking comment at the time of publishing this report.

ScoopWhoop was founded in 2013 by Mishra, Sriparna Tikekar, Rishi Pratim Mukherjee, Debarshi Banerjee, Saransh Singh and Suparn Pandey. All the co-founders are alumni of Indian Institute of Mass Communication. The media firm had raised $4 million from Kalaari Capital in November 2015.

In December last year, ScoopWhoop had acquired video delivery and ad targeting startup Touchfone Technologies for an undisclosed amount in a cash-and-stock deal. Through this acquisition, investment firm Blume Ventures picked a minority share in ScoopWhoop.

Bharti SoftBank (BSB), a joint venture between Bharti Enterprises and Japanese Internet firm SoftBank Corp, acquired a 36.5% stake in ScoopWhoop in November 2014.

ScoopWhoop is not the only firm in Kalaari Capital’s portfolio that is scaling down. Earlier this month, VCCircle had reported that business-to-business online commerce portal Industrybuying, which is backed by Kalaari Capital and SAIF Partners, was undergoing a major downsizing drive. Around 30-50% of the firm’s 500-strong workforce could lose their jobs. Senior level executives at the firm are also on their way out, two people in the know had told VCCircle.

In September, Kalaari-backed AppsDaily, a mobile phone insurance and security startup, was in the process of shutting down, VCCircle had reported. Its employees had not been paid and customer complaints were on the rise.

Kalaari Capital is also a shareholder in another online media venture YourStory, which competes with VCCircle for part of its news coverage.

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